I had made an unsuccessful attempt at collecting birch sap a few years ago, getting into action too late when the leaves were already forming. Last week with spring definitely on the way we felt it was time to act and with acres of silver birch at Catcliffe had the perfect location.
Equipment at the ready
The required equipment is simple consisting of a cordless drill, some pipe, collecting bottles and some string! We used plastic bottles drilling a hole in the cap so that the pipe would fit snugly through forming a good seal and ensuring no foreign bodies could enter.
Drilling the hole
This year it was obvious our timing was better as we started to get a steady trickle of sap as soon as the hole was drilled. Inserting the pipes and rigging the bottles we left the scene. However, the temptation to see how things were progressing was too great and 2 hours later I was back. Amazingly half a litre of liquid had already collected in some of the bottles making it clear that they could not be left too long without some considerable overflow. I was keen to avoid wasting any as once we had collected a bottle we intended to seal the hole so that the tree could concentrate on producing its new year leaves.
In the event it took about 30 hours to collect 2.2 litres from each tree. After harvesting we decided to concentrate the birch sap by reducing down until a syrup was formed. This can then be stored in sterilised jars allowing it to be utilised at appropriate times in the future. The sap was certainly very dilute tasting like very slightly sweetened water so 5 litres became approximately 150ml before it resembled anything like a syrup. At this stage it had completely changed in that it had taken on an intense caramel like flavour and become brown in colour. Can’t wait to try this in a recipe.